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Gibson Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Closed Hike. Some or all of this hike has been closed by a governing body and hikers may be liable for fines or even arrest. At least part of this route may be dangerous and hard to follow, or it may cross areas with sensitive plant life or wildlife habitat. Trailkeepers of Oregon does not endorse or recommend hiking this route. When restrictions are lifted, this notice will be removed.
Olallie Butte and Mt. Hood from the Gibson Lake Trail (bobcat)
Gibson Lake, Gibson Lake Trail (bobcat)
Historic shelter, Breitenbush Lake (bobcat)
First high lake, Pacific Crest Trail (bobcat)
Pyramid Butte and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest Trail (bobcat)
Loop route to Gibson and Breitenbush Lakes (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Horseshoe Saddle TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Breitenbush Lake
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 680 feet
  • High Point: 5,770 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



NOTICE: Trails in this area were affected by the 2020 Lionshead Fire. Please check current closures in the Mt. Hood National Forest before planning an outing.

This gentle loop takes you through the southernmost section of the Olallie Lake Scenic Area and onto the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. You will pass a couple of good viewpoints on your way to secluded Gibson Lake and then will visit mostly closed-off Breitenbush Lake, with its historic campground and shelter. While the trailhead at Horseshoe Lake is on public land, once you reach Gibson Lake and then Breitenbush Lake, please obey all signs and keep to the trails and road. The return is via the Pacific Crest Trail, which offers grand views back to Mount Jefferson and down the North Fork Breitenbush River valley.

Note that getting to the Horseshoe Saddle Trailhead requires decent clearance. If you do not have high clearance, park near Monon Lake at the Monon Lake Trailhead, and walk the road to the Horseshoe Saddle Trailhead. You can also make this a shorter loop, eliminating the Horseshoe Saddle Trail section, by beginning the hike at the Breitenbush Lake Trailhead: this comes to about 4 1/2 miles.

Hike past the trailhead sign and make a right at a junction. Reach the shore of Horseshoe Lake at a sign commemorating Howard M. “Rondy” Rondthaler, a former trails supervisor for the Mt. Hood National Forest. The trail skirts the shore among mountain hemlock, noble fir, and silver fir with an understory of huckleberry bushes. Pass three small tarns covered with bur-reed on your left and drop past a meadow to cross a small gully. Note a few large mountain hemlocks in the shady forest here. Veer right to rise up the slope along a seasonal stream among white rhododendrons and huckleberries. Reach the Pacific Crest-Horseshoe Saddle Trail Junction, and go left.

Hike south along the Pacific Crest Trail. After 200 yards, come to the Pacific Crest-Gibson Lake Trail Junction, and go left on the latter. The Gibson Lake Trail is an unmaintained trail that follows the route of the old Oregon Skyline Trail and enters the Warm Springs Reservation, but it is generally in good shape. Hike up a rocky tread to a viewpoint looking north to Olallie Butte, Monon Lake, Olallie Lake, and Mount Hood. Continue rising along the slope and step around a fallen tree. A partially obscured view allows a vista down to Horseshoe Lake. The trail keeps up a little farther and then drops on a rubbly tread. Lodgepole pines dominate the crest here. Reach Gibson Lake, with Campbell Butte and Mount Jefferson’s summit peeking up behind. Explore the quiet shore of this high lake and then continue along the trail. Pass through a small meadow of blueberries and heather, and then traverse down to the Gibson Lake Trail-FR 4220 Junction.

Go right on FR 4220. Signs saying this is a CLOSED AREA warn you not to approach Breitenbush Lake, which is mostly hidden by a screen of trees, from here. Soon reach the entrance road to the Breitenbush Lake Campground. Keep right after entering, and walk down through the campground to an historic shelter and a place where you can access the lakeshore and view the tranquil waters with Campbell Butte rising behind. Walk back along the campground loop road past the restrooms and find a trail that leads back up to FR 4220. Go left, and walk about 250 yards along the road. There’s a burn area on your right and a pond on your left. Reach the Pacific Crest Trail crossing before a road junction that leads to the Breitenbush Lake Trailhead.

Go right up the slope on the Pacific Crest Trail. Switchback among lodgepole pines and mountain hemlocks, wind up, and enter a burn. Pyramid Butte appears through the trees to the left and Campbell Butte and Breitenbush Lake are on your right. Leave the burn and drop past a meadow to reach the first of two high, but unnamed lakes. Continuing on the trail, come to a viewpoint of Mount Jefferson and Pyramid Butte across the North Fork Breitenbush River valley. Make a traverse on a steep, open talus slope with glimpses of Ruddy Hill ahead. Pass through a tongue of the burn, and then loop down above a lush spring to get a view of Olallie Butte and Mount Hood. Keep dropping to the Pacific Crest-Gibson Lake Trail Junction and retrace your steps back to the Horseshoe Saddle Trailhead.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Gibson Lake and Breitenbush Lake are on the Warm Springs Reservation. No camping permitted except at the Breitenbush Lake Campground. No huckleberry picking, no swimming at Breitenbush Lake; fishing (no permit needed) from the campground area allowed. Keep to designated trails and FR 4220.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Breitenbush, OR #525
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Olallie Scenic Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mount Jefferson, Bull of the Woods & Opal Creek Wilderness Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder
  • The Olallie Scenic Area Guidebook by Tony George

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.